Challenges – Stretch Your Goals

I’m always up for a challenge. That kind of external expectation drives me forward. (Read The Four Tendencies for the description of the Obliger type individual.)

So, I typically do the Goodreads Annual Challenge, which is where you select the number of books you’d like to read in the course of a year. I’ve been participating since 2013. In seven years, I’ve only missed my book goal three times. And most were at least a “B” effort (80% or better).

Goodreads will calculate how close you are to meeting your goal, but you have to update your (now) Reading and Read lists to capture the data. That has been a fun one. For 2020, my goal was 52 (averages a book a week), and I have already hit 74 completed books. Nothing like a pandemic Stay at Home Order to increase the reading time. But I usually enjoy reading, and it is far more entertaining than the substandard fare they show on Netflix.

*For the record, we cancelled our 14 year subscription to Netflix in February 2020. JUST before lockdown. So I’m not doing Netflix for purely practical reasons. Turns out I don’t really need to know about people who kill exotic species like tigers. And I probably don’t need another Ted Bundy documentary.

Photo by Maria Orlova on

I am going to set another book goal for 2021 on Goodreads. At least 52, but let’s keep it reachable–especially if we’re allowed to go outside in 2021. And travel. But travel is good for reading, especially in airports and on airplanes. Trains. Passenger seats in the automobile. (Cancel that– car sickness–do Audible instead.)

I think I’ll set it for 60 books. A little stretching for the goal itself, but definitely something I can do. Especially if I add in a few kids books like the I Survived series.

Meanwhile, I’ve started a two week focused challenge on ONE book, and getting it read. I’ve done this once before with Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl. If I hadn’t had the Two Week reading challenge, I probably would not have pushed through the second half of the book, which was the more science-y logotherapy discussion.

I like winning a challenge.

Today I started the Ready, Set, Read Challenge on the Waybetter App. (Do you remember my RunBet posts? Waybetter is the App maker, and now does running challenges on the same App.) The Reading challenge is free. Some of the other challenges are fairly inexpensive, and you win back your money if you complete the challenge. Not to mention others who play forfeit their “bet” if they don’t finish, and you collect a portion of their, well, for lack of a better word, shame money. Which is why I REALLY like to win the challenges I sign up for!

The book I’ll be reading in the next two weeks is High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard. It’s the kind of nonfiction book I don’t usually finish, unless it’s really really relevant and insightful (like James Clear’s Atomic Habits – highly recommended!!)

Since I don’t have any money on the line for this book, I am going to read it to see if it gives me any insights into better habits for 2021. If you have a system, good habits, and a target goal, you can get to that goal. And feel great while you’re going there.

Run with a Mask or No?

I debated with myself a bit yesterday about how I would approach the morning. I needed to complete two runs by Sunday to stay on track with RunBet but the air and the heat this week have been unusually challenging. The sky has been red–the sun blocked by haze and smoke. I posted before and after my run on FB:

Today I will be running with a mask. Or, I guess I should call it, jogga-waddling. I’ll be moving as fast as I can for about 40 minutes. Then coming inside and washing the remains of someone’s worldly possessions off of my skin. 😬 It has to be done. The jog and the wash. I will be testing the theory that you should not run with a mask on. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

ON Facebook
Smoke occludes the morning sun in Sacramento, California, due to ongoing fires

#StrangeObsession #NotMinimizingIt #CaliforniaBurning

When I was out there, I had time to think. It wasn’t as bad I thought, getting outside about 40 minutes before sunrise. I did check the AQI and was well hydrated. And I got my run done. As promised, I reported the mask experiment on social media.

The morning run is done. What I learned: masks while running suck. Even lightweight medical office masks. About 5 minutes in, I had to take mine off. I felt like I was suffocating. I’d rather get a whiff of faint campfire than slowly choke on my own exhaust. Two, it’s wonderful to run in my neighborhood before dawn. No one was out. It was me and a canopy of trees. Divine. And three, the level of commitment I seem to have recently made to running is nothing short of surprising. I wasn’t able to talk myself out of it this morning. Now to dissect why that is and apply it in other areas of life. I think the key here is #commitment. In any event, hope your Friday is good and that you are safe wherever you are.


A friend of mine commented that he “wussed out” on his run today. I responded — barely recognizing myself. Who have I become? It’s mind-boggling.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought. If you keep an eye on the AQI and go when it’s clearing a little do to dew in the air, you should be fine. Depending on how long you’re going for, though! Plus give yourself permission to go slow and to tap out if you need to. I feel MUCH better now that I got ‘er done!

Final Facebook post for the day

Lesson for the day: #KeepOnRunnin

All I need is the air that I breathe…

After a couple of sleepless nights and a day off from running, I decided I had better get out there and run. I’m particularly a super committed runner, but when I have a #RunBet going (and I do at the moment) it is enough to make me push my limits. I knew it was going to be challenging with the record-breaking heat in the area, and now the smoky, ashy air quality. 

A little after dawn, I laced up and got out there. The air was still and generally thick, as it has been, but the sky was a goldish reddish color that reminded me of the Wine Country fires in Napa County in October 2017. We were there then, and it was not anything but stressful and frightening. 2017 had been my first up close and personal experience with fire.

I knew I was going to be slow, but as long as I got my minimum pace for the challenge, and my minimum time, I was good to go.

Few people were out. Even fewer than the recent hot days. We’ve had at least 5 days in a row of over 100 degree Fahrenheit heat. That’s not too big a deal if you know Sacramento and the valley. But the heat has been humid, with thunder and lightning (the lightning out of nowhere caused many of the fires) and that has been new.

I took it easy, but my adult daughter was out on the street looking for me. She had a bandana over her mouth and nose. She tells me, “It was bothering me, and I figure if I had trouble with the ash and air, you would.”

Surprisingly I wasn’t too troubled. I actually didn’t even notice the cars coated with white and gray ash until I came back from nearly 40 minutes of a slower zennish jog.

Here is my FB post shortly after I got back, with the photo above.

The car was clean, actually, yesterday. This is ash from the fires. And yes, I ran in it. Really slowly, but I got ‘er done this morning.

It’s amazing what we can do when we put our minds to it. My mind was set on running. Now I’m wondering if I did any damage. I hope not. But as there are no N95 masks to be had, I guess the damage is already done.

I’ll probably wait another day before I go out again. But I know that I will want to get my scheduled runs for this week done, as soon as I can, as best as I can.

I made a commitment. 


First World Runner Problems

When I started this morning’s run, I realized, oh crap, I left my hat in the house!  I usually wear a cheap baseball cap, one I picked up a couple of years ago at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I wear it to keep the sun out of my eyes. I realized, as the sun hit my forehead and flashed off my glasses, that I wear the hat to disguise myself, too. Here I was, visible, an older woman with salt and pepper pandemic hair, identifiable, running at a turtle pace, but running all the same. I couldn’t be a faceless, nameless hat-wearing runner. I was seen. And that makes me uncomfortable. Who among us hasn’t judged a runner or a jogger, usually the slightly pudgy one who looks like they’re on the edge of a heart attack? I know I have. And usually from the front seat of my passing vehicle. It’s easy to judge when we’re in a comfortable seat with the air conditioner on and some grandiose music playing on our car stereos. Easy to see, judge, and laugh.

At least I hadn’t forgotten my cell phone and the hard cover I now place over the front. Last week or so, I was running to meet a daily #RunBet goal (RunBet is a game where you “bet” that you will complete your tasks. At the end of it, you win by getting your money back plus a little from those who didn’t complete the challenge.). Anyway, #RunBet motivates me to get out there every day, and I was putting in an effort to complete my run. I use an app called RunKeeper to track my mileage and pace, and last week or so the default lady voice was telling me I was on target and that I was about halfway done with my mileage.  I fumbled with my coverless phone and realized I had shut the tracker off. In the middle of a run. I would either have to hang up my shoes for the day or start a new run. I don’t know how you would feel, but I was stinking mad. I had gotten up at dawn and put on my shoes. Got outside. Started moving. And here, due to a technical glitch, it wouldn’t even count? Ugh. So I did what I usually do when I get really mad. I worked harder. I ran into areas I never go. I ran by the kids, who were waiting for me to finish the scheduled run, and told them because of an equipment failure, I’d be running longer. But I got it done. Sweaty, feisty, and tired, I got it done. And I now put an unswipeable hard cover over the face of my phone. So this morning that was a good thing I had going for me. 

About three quarters into today’s run, I was running on the shady side of the street (remember: no hat). Sacramento has a lot of trees and in the summer it’s a blessing–we’d bake if we didn’t have all these lovely leafy shade trees. So I was running on the shady side, and I looked to my left. There, in the wooded bushy corner of someone’s front yard, I made direct eye contact with an older, white-bearded African-American man in a clean white T-shirt. He was squatting. As in, taking his morning constitutional. Or “doing #2” as the kids would call it. Now, I’m not in the downtown, I’m running in a fairly nice suburb. I’m not in SF or LA or even San Diego. (Pooping outside is a popular pastime in those cities.) I’m in a fairly quiet, nicer part of Sacramento. And this guy decided to use someone’s front lawn as his personal bathroom. I’m not sure I’m having first world problems anymore. This feels more like all world problems. No Chariots of Fire for me on my run. Just Forrest Gump. And I stopped worrying about “being seen.” I’m not the only one out there, being observed, being judged. We’re all being judged. But there’s one thing I was glad about when I got home and hung up my shoes. There’s no hiding places on my front lawn. If someone needs to take a toilet break, it’s less likely to be in front of my house. I was back to my first world thinking. If I see that guy on the street, though, I suspect we will recognize each other. Hopefully not in similar circumstances in the future. 

I’m off to upload my run into my #RunBet. Twenty three more runs to go before I WIN my money back.

Keep on runnin’.

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